Israeli President Rivlin Warns of 'Breaking Point' in Politicization of Justice System

Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, speaking at the same ceremony for swearing in judges, insisted the courts were apolitical, rejecting accusations to the contrary by Israeli politicians and pundits

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President Reuven Rivlin at Judaism, Israel and Diaspora Conference, Jerusalem, October 30, 2019.
President Reuven Rivlin at Judaism, Israel and Diaspora Conference, Jerusalem, October 30, 2019. Credit: Emil Salman

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned on Tuesday of growing tensions between professionals in the civil service and political leaders.

“It appears that they are facing an insufferable breaking point,” he said, noting that the professionals are sometimes disparaged as nothing more than “clerks.”

In remarks at a ceremony at the President’s Residence at which new judges were sworn in, Rivlin singled out Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, who has frequently been critical of the “clerks” in his ministry, and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who opposed administering prisoners with the coronavirus vaccine, bucking the position of professionals at his ministry.

“In the name of what is labeled 'governance,' boundaries and red lines are being crossed,” the president said. “In recent years, the judicial system has been subject to bitter criticism including some that blatantly goes beyond what is legitimate.”

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut remarked at the ceremony about Israelis heading to the polls in March for the fourth time in two years. “This occurrence, which has no precedent in the country’s history, also doesn’t contribute to certainty and stability,” she said.

“At such times, it is particularly important to maintain the proper functioning of the judicial branch and its stability,” Hayut said. “There is no basis for the repeated attempts to drag the court system and the process for the appointment of judges onto the political field, while casting aspersions upon judicial decisions and damaging the independent and neutral standing of the courts.”

“The claim that the court, particularly the Supreme Court, has placed itself on the political field has no basis. Judges consider and decide legal questions that are presented to them, in accordance with the legal provisions on the matter. These principles don’t belong to any side of the political map. The court is independent and apolitical, even if there are those who for political reasons are trying to present things differently,” she said.

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